2022 Toyota GR 86 first drive review: An enthralling second act

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CNET 17 August, 2021 - 06:00am 55 views

You've asked, I've asked, we've all asked, but a turbocharged engine still isn't in the cards for the new GR 86. Thankfully, a larger naturally aspirated boxer engine does bring more oomph to the party. 

A new 2.4-liter four-cylinder spits out 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque -- 23 hp and 28 lb-ft more than the old 2.0-liter engine. More importantly, peak torque is available at 3,700 rpm instead of the previous 6,400 rpm for better grunt whether you're bumming around town or romping around your favorite road course.

Like before, the GR 86 will be offered with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The stick shift gets a carbon synchronizer to improve fourth-gear engagement, as well as new bearings and lower-viscosity fluid for smoother shift action. The automatic gets a higher-capacity torque converter to deal with the engine's extra thrust and additional clutch discs for better power delivery characteristics. 

For those wondering about fuel economy, official EPA numbers aren't available yet, but Toyota estimates the manual 86 will return 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. With an automatic, the estimates increase to 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

Around the Monticello Motor Club track in New York, the GR 86's new drivetrain makes a great first impression. If you drive the outgoing 86 back-to-back with the new GR 86, the livelier midrange grunt and throatier exhaust note make themselves known. Giddy-up is much livelier in the new car while accelerating down straights and hustling out of corners. On this same course, the older 2.0-liter car is always working up to the power at the top and feels dead in the middle of the engine's rev range.

The GR 86's throttle response is better than before, making rev-matching for downshifts a breeze, though the spacing between the brake and gas pedal is rather far apart. Other than that, fluid shifter action and a light clutch pedal make hammering the GR 86 hard around a track easy and thrilling.

As for the automatic GR 86, the updated transmission swaps cogs in a smoother and quicker manner, but manually shifting with the steering wheel-mounted paddles leaves a lot to be desired. There's a noticeable delay to shift commands and the rev-matching for downshifts is clunky.

The GR 86's chassis has a number of tweaks that improve handling like new front crossmembers and rear ring structure. The MacPherson-strut front and rear double-wishbone suspension setups get reworked dampers, new springs with front rebound coils and bigger antiroll bars to go along with a Torsen limited-slip differential like before. 

A new electronic power steering system makes for more direct action while throwing the GR 86 into a turn. Base models ride on 17-inch V-spoke wheels wrapped with 215/45 Michelin Primacy HP tires, while Premium trims get 18-inch matte black rims covered in 215/40 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. The brakes carry over unchanged with single-piston calipers biting down on 11.6-inch front and 11.4-inch rear discs. 

To keep weight in check with the GR's additional body reinforcements and beefed-up drivetrain components, the roof and front fenders are now made from aluminum, which also helps lower the coupe's center of gravity. The aforementioned power steering system is lighter than the old setup, and even small items such as a resin fuel door and lighter front seat frames are used to reduce heft wherever possible. The result is a 77-pound weight gain to 2,811 pounds for the 2022 base manual model.

Out on the track at Monticello, the GR 86 Premium is a riot to toss around, and much more buttoned up than the 86 it replaces. Steering response is snappier, quickly tucking the front end into corners, while body roll is minimal and the Pilot Sport 4s keep things nicely stuck, allowing you to roll into the throttle earlier on corner exit. The GR 86 handles high-speed side-to-side transitions with aplomb and feels surefooted when driven hard. Getting the rear to step out is easily done with the throttle and it's a cinch to control with some countersteering.

Saddling up in the base car with the skinny Primacy HP tires is more of a slip-and-slide experience. There's more tire sidewall squirm at turn-in, and it has lower cornering capabilities and not as much overall grip, requiring a more gradual throttle application out of bends. The base car is definitely more of a handful to drive hard, but hugely entertaining in its own right thanks to the 86's balanced chassis.

After a day of lapping, the brakes on my GR 86 tester show signs of wear. The brake pedal is softer and clamping bite isn't as ferocious, which is understandable. My issue is that my track runs were extremely brief, limited to two laps of Monticello's short 1.6-mile south course in the morning and one lap of the full 3.6-mile course in the afternoon. That doesn't bode well for the GR 86 being able to survive a typical 15-to-20-minute session at an open track day.

Driving the GR 86 Premium on the roads around Monticello reveals a firm, but far from jarring ride. On twisty ribbons of pavement, the GR 86 is fun to wheel around, which should make regular commutes much more interesting. The front seats are nicely bolstered, keeping occupants comfortable and locked in place.

What still isn't comfortable for most people are the 86's back seats, which are lacking in the leg- and headroom departments. Kids will manage, but you probably don't want to put adults back there unless you like watching them suffer. With the back seats folded down, Toyota says there's still enough cargo room to carry an extra set of wheels, a jack and some tools for track day exploits.

The 86's cabin layout is simple and easy to navigate, with large, clearly labeled switches. All GR 86 models get smartly placed soft touchpoints like leather on the steering wheel and shift knob, padded armrests and suede trim on the upper door panels. Premium models upgrade to Alcantara and leather seating, two-stage heated front buckets, aluminum pedals and contrasting black and silver trim.

Infotainment is handled by a serviceable 8-inch touchscreen system offering wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a six-speaker audio setup on base cars and an eight-speaker unit on the Premium. Active safety technology goodies are limited to automatic transmission cars only, but they have standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and auto high beams.

On the outside, the 86's overhaul includes new fascias front and rear, as well as redesigned fenders and flared rocker panels. The G-mesh honeycomb grille inserts are a nod to the 86 joining Toyota's family of GR performance vehicles, while the fender vents reduce wheel well turbulence and larger side skirts help improve straight-line stability at high speeds. All GR 86 models feature full LED lighting and black side mirror caps, while Premium cars get adaptive front lights and a sweeping duckbill spoiler that makes the rear look an awful lot like the previous-generation Aston Martin Vantage, which is cool in my book.

When the 2022 GR 86 hits deals in November, Toyota officials say it'll be priced under $30,000 including destination costs -- a small increase over the current 86's $28,105 starting MSRP. Honestly, having to part with a little more scratch for a more powerful, better-handling and sharper-looking sports coupe isn't something I'd gripe too much about. I'm just glad Toyota is keeping the GR 86 alive and giving it a healthy redo, to boot. Now, when does the turbo get here?

Read full article at CNET

2022 Toyota GR 86: The Jalopnik First Drive

Jalopnik 17 August, 2021 - 08:47am

That’s beside the point. The GR 86 is unsurprising because it’s the same rear-wheel drive sports coupe you know, love and begged for a decade ago, with the same happy-go-lucky spirit and democratic philosophy on oversteer. Except now, it’s more eager to wake up and more prepared to keep up. And wasn’t that all the original 86 was ever missing, anyway?

The “better,” in this case, is mostly owed to the new engine — a 2.4-liter, naturally aspirated flat-four replacing the 2.0-liter motor in the old car. It makes 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, an improvement of 23 HP and 28 lb-ft over the first generation. Also, all that torque hits at 3,700 RPM now. Remember that for later! We’ll come back to it.

For all this, Toyota tells us the GR 86 will start “comfortably” under $30,000, including destination. The old 86 started at a shade above $28,000 with destination included by the end of its run. That’s a good sign!

But I do want to take a moment to talk about the interior, because aside from moaning about the lack of a turbo, interior quality is the main complaint I’ve seen lobbed at the Toyobaru kids over the years. I suspect my threshold for tacky plastics and the tactile feedback of switchgear is lower than most, because my only car is a Fiesta ST. I’ll admit that I didn’t have a wealth of time to focus on these things while there was an open track in front of me. That said, absolutely nothing about the interior jumped out at me as excessively cheap, flimsy, or indicative of the car’s stature as the entry point of Toyota’s performance family. I’d be perfectly happy spending every day in this interior.

The base GR 86 gets the same 215/45/R17 Michelin Primacy HP tires the old car had, while the Premium benefits from a set of much grippier Pilot Sport 4s wrapped around 18-inch wheels. Yes, you can have more dumb fun with the shittier tires; that said, it’s not impossible to break loose with the stickier rubber, you just have to push a little harder to do it. Personally, I prefer point and squirt traction, but then I’m not especially skilled in the dark arts of oversteer.

Perhaps longtime 86 or BRZ owners will notice differences I won’t in corners. But one difference everyone’s sure to notice is the additional torque, and particularly when it strikes. The new 2.4 builds power far more rapidly, and you don’t have to keep it at the absolute top of every gear to get the most out of it. The GR 86 is just a friendlier car to push in that way. And when you do push it, it certainly feels like it has more to give.

That engine is the real game-changer with the GR 86. It makes the car feel more responsive overall, and I suspect the once-deafening clamor for forced induction will die down a bit with this generation.

First, the ride is harsh. “Of course it is, Captain Obvious” I’m sure you’re thinking. But, the judder from each imperfection in the asphalt was likely a bit dampened compared to the jolt my Fiesta would’ve shot up my spine. If you’re especially concerned with comfort, you’re not finding that here. The base seats were surprisingly pleasant, though.

Those minor observations aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the GR 86 on the street. The beauty of a car like this is that its lightness and immediacy make it captivating at any speed. As it happens, I’ll be driving the new BRZ in a few weeks, and I’m especially curious if some of the changes that Toyota’s engineers made to the suspension components and electric power steering will leave the Subaru feeling a bit lifeless by comparison. One representative told me the stories of CEO Akio Toyoda being underwhelmed by the steering feel of the new car were in fact true, and those tweaks were made at the last minute in response to the boss’ criticism.

Every GR 86 comes standard with this sad excuse for back seats. Seriously, I’m not even that tall at 5'10", and you’re never getting me into the backseat of this car with my kneecaps intact, unless the driver or front-seat passenger I’m sitting behind also lacks kneecaps.

These days there aren’t many GR 86 alternatives out there on this side of the pond, at least in spirit.

One question mark is the upcoming Nissan Z. Like the GR 86 and BRZ, the new Z is a rear-wheel drive coupe, and it appears Nissan will offer a manual option with it. It could also be considerably more powerful out of the gate if those rumors of 300 horsepower are true. But cost is still up in the air. If the Z does manage to hit $35K as some have hinted it may, it’ll definitely make choosing one of the Toyobaru twins considerably tougher.

2022 Toyota GR 86 First Drive Review | A rousing refrain

Autoblog 17 August, 2021 - 06:00am

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MONTICELLO, N.Y. — It’s a story playing out all over the industry: When the time comes for a new generation, internal-combustion performance cars are being significantly overhauled rather than completely redesigned. The Nissan Z is going this route, and rumors have suggested a similar fate for the next-generation Ford Mustang. Even Cadillac’s Blackwing variants were really more akin to remixed versions of their predecessors than entirely new vehicles. And so it goes with the 2022 Toyota GR 86 (and its Subaru sibling, the BRZ, but that will have to wait a bit).

Toyota’s variant has now been blessed with the “GR” designation. That stands for Gazoo Racing, which started life as a Toyota skunkworks motorsports team. While it’s still the name for Toyota’s now-official factory racing efforts, the shorthand is also being used to denote models like the 86 and Supra that were built to be fun first and transportation second. So, not a Corolla.

Toyota’s marketing team has latched onto the new designation as an indicator that the little coupe has “graduated” to Toyota’s official performance division. That’s not the wildest pitch we’ve seen come toward the plate, but considering that the updates to the 2022 model were fairly modest, it’s not one we’re inclined to swing at.

The most noteworthy upgrade to the 2022 GR 86 is its engine. Out: a thrashy 2.0-liter boxer-four making 205 horsepower and (seemingly) about 9 pound-feet of torque. In: a more refined 2.4-liter mill that produces 228 horses and a peak of 184 lb-ft that arrives 2,700 rpm sooner than the old one (it was 156 lb-ft if you must know). Still around: six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes, both of which were tweaked to account for the new engine and improve quality of life.

The 2022 model is offered in two trims: Base and Premium. The former comes standard with 17-inch wheels and Michelin Primacy HP tires (yeah, the same ones originally and infamously referred to as “Prius tires”) in 215/45R17, while the Premium gets 18-inch wheels shod in the properly summer-spec Michelin Pilot Sport 4. Even this sticky rubber remains skinny from the factory, checking in at 215/40R18.

The GR 86’s wheelbase (101.4 inches), overall length (167.9 inches) and curb weight (2,811-2,868 pounds) are all near-as-makes-no-difference the same, too, thanks to the carry-over platform. The standard Torsen limited-slip differential also soldiers on, as does the MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear. In short, the GR 86 is the same size and shape as the old 86, but slightly more powerful. With the manual, Toyota claims the 2022 GR 86 will hit 60 in 6.1 seconds on the way to a 140-mph top speed; the auto is a half a second slower and runs out of revs 6 mph sooner.

Second verse, same as the first, right? Well, that’s what Toyota was worried we’d say, so just to make it absolutely clear that the GR 86 is appreciably better than its predecessor, a few examples of the outgoing model were on-hand at the Monticello Motor Club in New York so that we could see (feel, really) for ourselves.

We started on Monticello's South Course in the morning, allowing us to get acclimated to the cars on the shorter, slower configuration before we were turned loose on a modified version of the Full Course in the afternoon. I took my recon laps in a current-generation car to refamiliarize myself with its character and quirks while learning Monticello’s basic school line.

Stepping into the GR 86 afterward, the most immediate difference is just how less intrusive the 2.4-liter boxer-four is compared to its predecessor. It’s about as loud at wide-open throttle, but the old 2.0-liter's gruffness has been largely smoothed over. There’s far less powertrain vibration in the steering wheel too, which is a welcome improvement.

Despite a 20% bump in both displacement and torque, the 2.4 actually feels a bit more free-revving too. We wouldn’t go so far as call it “eager” to climb the tach, but it’s nonetheless more willing to breathe near the top of the rev range. In fact, the difference is so pronounced that I found myself short-shifting on occasion after getting behind the wheel of the GR 86 after becoming re-acclimated to the outgoing car’s wheezier top end.

Speaking of shifting, one item that doesn’t seem significantly improved is the six-speed automatic. Frankly, this was never the gearbox to get in the FR-S/86/BRZ and that hasn’t changed. It’s a tangible drag on the car’s acceleration and it makes the GR 86 heavier and more lethargic. Meanwhile, the six-speed manual’s core gears (two, three and four – those you’re expected to shift between most often) had their throws adjusted to make it a bit easier to find what you want entirely by feel.

The chassis remains absolutely sublime, and the base model’s forgiving, low-grip tires continue to really help emphasize just how light on its feet the little 2+2 really is. Monticello’s Carousel – a long, decreasing-radius left-hander – invited us to swing the Primacy HPs back and forth across their traction peaks, transitioning seamlessly from under- to oversteer both progressively and predictably. They lack the outright grip of the Pilot Sport 4s, but they’re competent tires for any beginner looking to get a feel for a nimble, lightweight chassis.

Stepping up to the Premium gets you the larger, stickier tires at the expense of some approachability. They’re not transformative by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re certainly far less talkative. The extra grip never translated into a braking problem (stickier tires help your brakes work better at the expense of additional heat), but our sessions were brief and had no true flying laps, so it’s hard to say how well they’re likely to stand up to longer track outings. They should do just fine for a beginner’s autocross outing, however.

You’ll note that we didn't discuss the 2.4-liter’s torque output up above in the engine chat, and that’s with good reason. While much was made of the 2.0-liter’s lack of grunt, its most vocal critics often focused specifically on its mid-range delivery, which was a bit lacking. Yeah, we’re talking about the “torque dip.” But here’s the thing: If you buy the 86 as a track or autocross toy, mid-range torque is the least of your concerns. If you find it mattering, you’re in the wrong gear. On the street, however, low- and mid-range torque delivery both matter a great deal, and the new GR 86 feels every bit as torquey as its improved figure suggests.

That said, the power delivery is basically the same. Peak torque hits a little lower (3,700 RPM), but plotted against the 2.0-liter’s torque curve, the shape is virtually identical – just raised a bit due to the higher output across the board. In other words, it drives about the same, it’s just a bit punchier across its rev range, making it more forgiving around town, especially in third and fourth gears, where the older car can easily be caught flat-footed. Even when I found myself short-shifting on track, that extra grunt was there to help mitigate my mistakes. It’s not a cure for poor gear selection, but it certainly helps.

And while we're on the subject of new elements that make around-town driving more forgiving, the new 86 interior impresses immediately. The new, slightly less squared-off dash treatment is pretty easy on the eyes, and the factory seats are reasonably bolstered and sufficiently supportive. The cabin is still sparsely appointed, especially in the base model, where virtually everything is finished in a near-black monotone, but there are also some appreciable materials improvements here and there.

As for technology, the boxer engine isn't the only thing Subaru obviously contributed. Although there's a slight graphics reskin, the 86 features what is effectively Subaru's StarLink touchscreen infotainment system. Even the surrounding physical buttons/knob selections are what you'd find in a Crosstrek, Forester, etc. This is actually good news for the 86, as Subaru's tech is easier to use, quicker to respond and has better graphics than Toyota's.

The various driver assistance tech also comes from Subaru, but only on cars with an automatic transmission. Automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control cannot be had with the manual. We can probably live with that.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, the 2022 Toyota GR 86 is the same, only better. It almost entirely retains the character that defined its predecessor while offering incremental improvement across the board. The rougher edges have been sanded down and the wick turned up a bit, but it’s still fundamentally the same car. That’s great news for fans of the formula, but probably not enough to sway those who've been demanding a turbo for nine years. 

If you fall into that camp or were expecting a complete transformation, the 2022 GR 86 will leave you disappointed. If you appreciated the old car’s basic formula and just wanted a touch more outright speed, then you’re in luck. While it may not be perfect, the GR 86 ticks all the boxes for a fun, no-frills sport coupe with plenty of room for aftermarket augmentation.

We don’t have Toyota’s final pricing for the GR 86 yet, but we’re told it will start “comfortably” under $30,000 with destination included, meaning it remains affordable to boot. It may suffer from some of the same spec sheet weaknesses of its predecessor, but if you have to search that much to find a car’s flaws, I’d argue it never had any worth noting to begin with.

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